A few days after Tedros’ press conference, in response to growing international pressure, the Biden administration pledged to deliver 20 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to COVAX. Such a major policy shift: It was the first time that the United States donated a dose that could have been used domestically. (The administration has also committed to donating 60 million doses of AstraZeneca for COVAX but has not yet done so.)
Glenn Cohen, a law professor who directs the Petrie-Flume Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School, says a pledge of 20 million doses is a “good first step” for a country that cannot get enough people to consume vaccine supplies quickly enough.
But he adds that it does not negate moral ambiguity That US cities and states offer vaccines to visitors or consider introducing them as official policy. Cohen, who has written a book on medical tourism, says the vaccines were aimed primarily at “those who need it most” rather than “people who are able to travel, who have visas, and who are healthy”.
In other words, he says: It’s as if “someone loaned you their car to take your mother to the hospital, and then decided to take that car and instead of returning it to the person – or taking other people to a hospital – you manage it as an Uber.”
Outsourcing ethical dilemmas
Robert Amler, dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at the New York School of Medicine, says that encouraging travelers to travel to the United States from places with lower vaccination rates – and possibly higher levels of infection – may in and of itself be harmful to public health.
Amler, the former chief medical officer at the CDC, says: “Any risk of” importing “coronavirus infection will depend on the volume of arrivals and the proportion of travelers who actually arrive with the virus. “We also cannot predict with certainty the city’s ability to manage their numbers if it becomes excessive.”
To combat this risk, some people who travel to get vaccinated take their own precautions to avoid becoming unintentionally carriers of the virus – or causing other types of harm.
Michael (also a pseudonym) and his wife traveled from Quito, Ecuador, to New Orleans on a five-day trip in mid-May, during which he received a J&J injection and received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Michael’s family in Canada has yet to meet the twins’ boys, who were born in January 2020. By going to Louisiana to get their vaccinations, it is estimated that they speed up the vaccination – and thus the family reunification – by six to nine months.
However, the couple wanted to ensure that they did not receive vaccines that could have passed on to someone else. “Our first thought was to go to the red state, because we knew that supply exceeded demand,” he explains.
They took extra precautions before and during their trip, too. After both contracted the COVID-19 virus early in the epidemic, they underwent pre-flight antibody tests. Then they kept themselves to limit their exposure.
By taking the initiative, they may have reduced the potential negative impact of their trip, but this highlights another problem of vaccine tourism as policy – and much of the world’s response to the coronavirus in general. Difficult ethical decisions that could be – or, as some would argue, should be – matters of politics that are instead pushed to individuals.
“It is the city that sets the waiting list,” says Pamela Hieronymy, a philosopher at the University of California, Los Angeles. So if you have a problem with New York vaccine tourists, for example, “It looks like your complaint should be brought to the city, not to the person using the line offered to them.”
Nicole Hasson, a professor of philosophy at Binghamton University and chair of its Global Health Impact Project, also argues that while tourists may wrestle with their choice, the real ethical problem is not at the individual level. I think the question really has to do with what countries do with their resources and which countries continue to use them [vaccines] For their own benefit, “she says.” Globally, this is really wrong. “
There may also be second-order effects such as exacerbating domestic inequality, says Yadorshini Ravindran, a Duke Institute graduate of Global Health, who points out that wealthier individuals in low-income countries – those who travel internationally and are thus more likely to benefit from vaccine tourism – are getting Already get better health care than the poor in those countries. Israel has the highest vaccination rates in the worldIt indicates that Palestine gave a single dose to only 5% of the population.